Kitcheners March, Epsom Racecourse, 24 January 2015
It wasn’t really cold enough. Our newly-appointed Mittens Orderly, Drummer Fairfax,
issued fingerless gloves to all ranks which proved very welcome. But we really needed
some snow to get the atmosphere right.
We’d assembled at Epsom Racecourse to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lord
Kitchener’s inspection of the 47th (2nd London) Division there before their posting
to the Western Front. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the event had been
organised by Bourne Hall Museum in Ewell supported by Epsom Downs Racecourse and
the Woodland Trust, who are establishing a WW1 memorial wood on Epsom Downs.
On the day of the parade in 1915 it had started to snow at 6 am and by the time of
the inspection at 11 the 20,000 men of the Division were standing in snow 8 inches
deep. To keep warm, they spent frequent periods marking time. This was a historical
detail that our Drum Major didn’t have us replicating, either out of the kindness
of his heart or because he didn’t know about it (and I know which one I’d bet on).
Having marched in file to the Forming Up Point, we were joined by the WW1 Re-enactors,
Army Cadets and Army Reserve units who had marched from Bourne Hall via Epsom town
centre. On the Parade Commander’s order we marched them on the last leg round to
the front of the Queen’s Stand playing our 1914-18 medley It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,
Goodbye Dolly Grey, Hello, Hello, Who’s Your Lady Friend and Take Me Back to Dear
The end of ‘Blighty’ brought us to our place in front of the stand where HM Lord-Lieutenant
of Surrey, Dame Sarah Gould DCVO JP, Local Mayors and other dignitaries, the Epsom
Male Voice Choir and Scouts from 3rd Epsom Troop had assembled. After the British
and Belgian flags had been hoisted and we’d played our 8 bars of Scipio for the General
Salute, the short service of commemoration began.
The Rev. Frank Collins of The Army Chaplain’s Dept., resplendent in Temperate Combat
Dress and SAS beret with Sabre Wings on his black padre’s stole, lead the service.
It included two hymns from the Male Voice Choir and Last Post and Reveille movingly
sounded by our Duty Bugler, Drummer Kirby.
The service also featured a performance of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark
Ascending. This was included because Vaughan Williams had been present at Kitchener’s
Review in the snow as a 41-year-old volunteer private in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Although the RAMC had been busy in 1915 dealing with hypothermia cases, one of whom
subsequently died, we fared rather better. Retaining just enough feeling in our chilly
fingers, we struck up with Galanthia as the Re-enactors, Army Cadets and Army Reserve
units marched off.
After generously contributing to the ABF The Soldiers Charity and Combat Stress collection
buckets carried by local Cadets, most of the spectators very sensibly disappeared
into the stands at this point. But we’d been engaged to play after the parade, so
play we did.
Following The King of the Fairies with Euterpe, we then tried a slower than usual
The Adjutant to great effect. As we were now performing only to the crews busy dismantling
the Choir stage, the Drum Major marched us off to the rousing strains of Kiss Me
Goodnight, Sergeant Major and There’s Something About a Soldier.
It was good to gradually warm up joining the Re-enactors in the queue for tea and
sandwiches in the Duchess Stand. Good also to have helped commemorate the men of
47th (2nd London) Division who’d suffered far more than our chilly fingers in the
snow a century ago.
Click below to see the Corps leading the marchers to the commemoration service.